Thumb tribe

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Texting with thumbs. Young people texting on smartphones using thumbs.JPG
Texting with thumbs.

Thumb tribe or sometimes thumb generation [1] is the younger generation with members who are more adept at texting using their thumbs than talking on the phone. [2] [3] [4] The concept identifies a trend among young people who use mobile phones for many activities, such as texting, email, entertainment, and conversations, as opposed to using keyboards with traditional desktop computers, [5] and marks a shift in the favorite digit such that activities typically done by the forefinger, such as pointing at things or ringing doorbells, are being done with the thumb. [6] The term thumb tribe has been used by marketers to identify younger consumers [5] and in politics to identify persons who are not part of the younger generation, such as American politician Mitt Romney, who may have a mobile phone but does not use it dexterously. [7] [8] According to researchers, this has led to the thumb being physically stronger and more flexible for many young people. [9] There are medical implications as well; excessive use of thumbs can lead to muscle pain and possible occupational problems.


The term thumb tribe was first used in Japan to identify the "younger generation of Japanese texters". [10] Japanese youth used their keitai or mobile phone to download music, access Japan's version of Myspace called mixi, surf the web, check train timetables and so forth. [11] This group is identified as a common source of smart mobs that assemble seemingly spontaneously. [12] The Japanese texting style relies heavily on the thumb, according to a report in NBC News . [13]

They've grown up in a world that is dynamically different from the one we lived in. What kind of cars do they want? And what gadgets? They don't even use computers - computers now perceived as going the way of B&W television. At what point do their childhood toys and t'ween technology devices merge? And what future outcomes do they, and marketer-manufacturers expect?

H. Martin Calle, 2007 [5]

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  1. Note: oyayubizoku is the term in Japan
  2. JENNIFER WANG, NOVEMBER 23, 2010, Entrepreneur, Jargon: Thumb Tribe: Dexterous individuals who text better (and faster) than they talk., Accessed June 19, 2014
  3. Mike Tharp, October 9, 2010, Merced Sun-Star, Mike Tharp: Maddie's inspiration -- blanketing Merced, Accessed June 19, 2014, "...We thought this younger generation -- the Thumb Tribe with their texts, tweets, tats and taggers.."
  4. Kirsty Allison, 3ammagazine, rise of the nu mohemians, Accessed June 19, 2014, "..."It's a marketing dream," says Tadashi, ... We call them the Oyayubizoku generation (the thumb tribe)..."
  5. 1 2 3 H. MARTIN CALLE, NOVEMBER 29, 2007, Advertising Age, Multi-Cultural Marketing: The Thumb Tribe, Accessed June 19, 2014, "..'THUMB TRIBE' referring to the masses of young people around the world ..."
  6. Amelia Hill of The Observer, 23 March 2002, The Guardian, Thumbs are the new fingers for the GameBoy generation, Accessed June 19, 2014, "...In Japan, the trend was particularly marked. ... under-25s referred to themselves as oya yubi sedai - the thumb generation, or thumb tribe..."
  7. MICHELLE QUINN, August 1, 2010, Politico, Mitt Romney not yet a member of the 'thumb tribe', Accessed June 19, 2014, "..'I don’t think Romney is a member of the thumb tribe,' said Paul Saffo...
  8. Amanda VanAllen, Aug 2, 2012, ABC News, Politico's Michelle Quinn: "Mitt Romney not yet a member of the 'thumb tribe'", Accessed June 19, 2014, ".Politico’s Michelle Quinn: "Mitt Romney not yet a member of the 'thumb tribe'" .."
  9. 25 March 2002, BBC News, Thumbs take over for text generation, Accessed June 19, 2014, "...thumbs of teenagers and young adults have become more widely used than index fingers ... more muscled and dextrous..."
  10. Anna Mindess, Intercultural Press, 2006, Reading Between the Signs, Accessed June 19, 2014, "..The younger generation of Japanese texters, called the thumb tribe...."
  11. Justin Norrie, April 14, 2007, The Age (Australia), A nation's youth all thumbs with PCs, Accessed June 19, 2014, "...Like many of her friends and millions of other young Japanese, she appears to use only her "keitai", or mobile phone, to send and receive emails, download music, access mixi (Japan's immensely popular version of Myspace), look at web pages..."
  12. March 25, 2008, Brian Dubé, New York Daily Photo, Pillow Fight, Accessed June 19, 2014, "..Teenage "thumb tribes" are often cited as the origins of smart mobs..."
  13. Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press, July 16, 2008, NBC News, Japan: You can probably find an iPhone there, Accessed June 19, 2014, "...The Japanese style of texting relies mainly on a thumb ... users are dubbed "oyayubi zoku" or "thumb tribe."..."